What A Tattoo Artist Taught Me About Sales


Share on LinkedIn

What a Tattoo Artist Taught Me About Sales

First off, I want to say that I do not have a tattoo. And I did not receive one through writing this post. (Although, I may or may not be slightly more interested in getting one from Stephanie after her talk!) 

I am a salesperson. I learn a lot through daily experience. I learn from successes and failures like every salesperson of the world. But sometimes an experience that is completely unrelated to sales can teach me how to be a better salesperson. A recent event did just that.

I attended a Creative Mornings event in Chicago, which featured Stephanie Brown, a tattooist and painter in the city. It was a Friday morning. The energy of the room was palpable as attendees fueled up on coffee and donuts. Stephanie began talking about how she ‘found tattooing’ and her process in working with clients.

There’s no shame in ‘sticking to your guns’.

Stephanie went to art school in Chicago. She poured her artwork into sketchbooks and really enjoyed working with a simple notebook and pencils. She consulted with her art professors and was often shocked and somewhat offended that they thought her sketches would be best translated to oil on canvas. She was not interested in working with that medium because it’s expensive and very time-consuming. She didn’t really understand how her small sketches would translate.

While being creative during the sales process can be necessary, you don’t always have to follow the advice of others. If a certain method is working for you, don’t change it. Learn when you need to alter it for a specific situation, but continue with what works.

Observation is key.

Stephanie spent a lot of time in different environments. She allowed interesting subjects to influence her art. For example, she spent a lot of time in one of the science departments where they were working with birds. Without that experience, she wouldn’t have explored artistically.

Salespeople can instill a bit of ‘observation’ into their routine by shadowing a coworker for an hour, for example. This coworker may be approaching a sale differently than you would. And that’s precisely the point — to get out of your own head and observe others accomplishing the same task in a slightly different way.

Don’t try to be someone you’re not.

Stephanie was the art school student that just happened upon an apprenticeship with a resident artist at a tattoo shop. At the time she was a self-proclaimed ‘nerdy, shy art student’ that didn’t have an interest in getting a tattoo. She worked hard and was interested in tattooing as an art form. She didn’t feel the pressure to get a tattoo of her own (note; she, of course, now has a few tattoos!).

In sales, you’re not going to get anywhere by ditching your own style. We all have our own way of communicating. Embrace your job with a passion for learning but don’t try to be someone you’re not. At the end of the day, customers will see through that.

Practice (on yourself).

When Stephanie was nearing the end of her apprenticeship, the first tattoo she ever gave someone she gave to herself. Sometimes practicing and experimenting is best done on yourself before you take it to a customer.

The same goes for a salesperson. You can verbally and nonverbally role-play a conversation with a prospect or customer. The more you practice and consider certain scenarios, the more prepared you’ll be to deal with these in a live situation.

Make the product/service specific to each and every client.

Stephanie talked about how her artwork now walks around. It leaves her tattoo shop and comes back for its next session. In art school, her art lived in her sketchbooks. Now her canvases are made of skin and “attached to people with very specific opinions”. (No pressure, right?). She makes every tattoo specific to the client because every client’s body is shaped differently. She also doesn’t like to do tattoos that are ‘cliché’. She caters to each client that books an appointment with her.

One size does not fit all. A client relationship may look identical to another on paper, but that doesn’t mean that you should handle each and every relationship in the same way. Take the time to cater to each customer so that they don’t feel like they bought a box solution that can’t be customized to fit their needs.

It’s always a partnership.

Getting one of Stephanie’s intricate tattoos takes several sittings, several hours, over a period of months. It’s a process that requires time because the body must work to heal between sessions. But every client is different. A sensitive person may have to come in for more sessions for only an hour, while a ‘tougher’ person could come in just a few times and sit for several hours. The client has to communicate with Stephanie about their pain threshold. At the end of the day, it’s a partnership between client and tattooist.

As a salesperson, you enter into potentially dozens or hundreds of different partnerships through the course of a year. This takes constant communication between you and your clients. It’s time-consuming and it’s not always easy. Think of every ‘sale’ as the beginning of a real partnership — and dedicate the necessary energy to each one in order to maintain rapport.

Sometimes a little bit of outside perspective can be the best teacher.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jenny Poore
Jenny is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Sales Engine, a sales consulting firm based in Chicago that helps companies build and tune their sales engine. Feel free to connect on Twitter: @salesengine and @salesengineJP.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here